Tag Archives: student assessment

My Inquiry: Part Three

30 May

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Time is often identified as the biggest concern when engaging in authentic assessment. Both the time it takes students to engage in a meaningful authentic assessment. I find it frustrating giving students some much time to do research. Class time that could be used for something else.

However, these tasks can be as simple as 15 to 30 minutes, during which students—individually or in a small group—solve a problem that has multiple solutions; analyze and interpret a graph that shows the increase in stress among teens; or even discuss two cartoons that show opposite perspectives of an issue.

A longer task may take one to three class periods. These tasks may involve solving a problem with two or more solutions and creating a video that explains the process. That video may become a resource for other students attempting to learn to solve problems. A longer, more involved task might also include studying the cause of teen stress by looking at multiple sources, discussing potential solutions and generating some ways to support students in school.

Finally, a comprehensive task may take one to six weeks or longer. These tasks often identify a local or global issues and ask students to learn essential outcomes (standards/competencies) through reading, studying, talking, and producing solutions to some of these issues. Students may tackle distracted driving and develop a full campaign to reduce dangerous driving behaviors in teens. Younger students may study the benefits and challenges of owning a pet and raise awareness and/or money to advocate for a pet issue they uncover.

Timing is important and ensuring that the task is manageable and relevant within the time frame allotted will ensure a meaningful student and teacher experience. Trying to tackle too much can lead to surface level work.

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My Inquiry: Assessment

26 May

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One of my teaching inquiry’s this year deals with assessment. This will be reflected in my reflections here. My hunch is that we as educators need to assess differently.

Being able to recall scientific concepts, identify historical events, or memorize mathematics facts and algorithms, while acutely impressive, is no longer sufficient to prepare students for the challenging world they will face. Identifying characters, theme, and symbolism used to be the focus of education, and it was enough. In the past, learners would occasionally have opportunities to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and creatively problem solve, but that was the means, not the end. After engaging in dialogue, problem solving, or analysis, learners would typically take a multiple-choice test or an essay prompt would ask them to recall details or themes discussed in class. As critical competencies shift to be the end rather than the means, recalling facts is not nearly as important as being able to find the content, critically evaluate its value and credibility, apply it appropriately in different contexts, or put new ideas together to generate something interesting and original. Content is not obsolete; rather, the memorization (and recall) of it is. More than ever it is essential for educators to provide more meaningful tasks so learners tap into rich content while demonstrating the critical competencies through application” (Erkens, Schimmer, Vagle, 2019, p. 6).

This new reality requires a different way of thinking about how and what we assess.

There are moments when students are deeply engaged in classroom instruction, and then it comes time for an “assessment” and the engagement stops as “test day” suddenly occurs. Methods of assessment are supposed to capture the level of the intended learning. Assessment is evidence of learning, and it takes on many forms. Assessment can be observations based on a set of criteria or descriptions such as during a collaborative activity, a Socratic seminar, a conversation, an interview, a verbal presentation; it might take the form of a product such as a blog, an essay, a video—the list goes on. A test is only one way to capture a level of learning and is not always the most accurate. When considering what learners are facing in their future, they must experience a wide variety of assessment method.

Erkens, C., Schimmer, T., Vagle, N.D. (2019). Growing tomorrow’s citizens in today’s classroom: Assessing seven critical competencies. Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, IN.

Why should we assess?

10 Mar

BigData

Schools often ask  when they should use standardized  testing.  Twice a year?  Once a year ? There is no definitive answer, just a few questions, which, when answered by the school, will make choosing the time of year to assess more logical.

In a way, the introduction of teachers making their overall teacher judgement about where a student sits in the NZ curriculum, has given schools much more freedom in their assessment choices. Moderation is more common and teachers are using a range of assessments, with few relying on single sources of evidence  to make their judgement (Wylie, & Berg 2013).  So where does standardized testing fit in to the assessment picture?

The NZ Curriculum has a good statement at the beginning of its assessment section on pg. 39:

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both …respond to the information it provides. 

Keep that statement in mind as you ask yourself:

  • What information do I need to gather on which children?
  • Does the assessment chosen match the teaching  the students have received?
  • What is the purpose for gathering this data – how will it help teaching and learning?

There are many different reasons teachers choose standardized assessments to support their judgement. For many schools, the days of blanket testing twice a year for all students are gone.The reasons for using standardized assessment are becoming more considered, more refined, as schools underpin their self-review with deliberate planning.

Reasons might be:

  • Closely monitoring a particular cohort of children who have received specific interventions
  • Tracking the progress of the cohort identified in the annual target
  • Gathering information for a priority  learning group
  • Gathering school-wide data to inform strengths and needs in a subject
  • Gathering year group data to inform strengths and needs
  • Assessing teaching strategies in a particular subject
  • Getting reassurance about the moderation process and decisions about individual children
  • Cluster data to improve collaboration around improving teaching and learning in a particular subject
  • To monitor progress, determine professional development needs, and assess the value of interventions in a particular area

Schools have enormous freedom now to choose the tool and the time that best suits their purpose, but it requires a collaborative response to the question:

What is the purpose for this assessment?

Being innovative v teaching the curriculum.

15 Jan

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The viewpoint of “teaching the curriculum” and “innovation in education” is that the curriculum is on one side of the continuum, and innovation is on the opposite side. What separates the great teachers from everyone else, is not what they teach, it is how they teach.

What I am trying to get staff to understand is that how we teach our rich NZ Curriculum is the innovation. This can be seen by the finding of the NCEA review document. Think about how NZQA is now approaching assessment differently.

Recently at an NZQA seminar Principals Nominee were talking about instead of lecturing on a topic, could you have the students create a video or Vlog on the topic, to explain it in an in-depth way?  I don’t think that classrooms should be absent of providing content to students, but I do believe that what we create with the content provides a deeper understanding of what you are learning.  What does it matter if a student does well on a test, but doesn’t understand the ideas a week later?

Instead of downloading Apps students could be creating them. Simply focusing on the word “create,” and thinking about how that would enhance the learning could make a significant impact.

Ok I am not saying that lecture is a bad thing.  I do it all the time and I have seen some great teachers deliver wonderful lessons. I think there are great lessons learned from lecture, but I don’t think that any one way is the best way for all students.  I know that from the experience of being both a teacher and a learner.  But I challenge you to look at one thing in the context of your work, whether it is in leadership or teaching, and ask Is there a better way?

Student Investment

23 Nov

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Student investment is not just about students sitting compliantly in a classroom and not disrupting others, but in fact when students own and take responsibility for their own learning. When students are truly invested in their learning, there is a symbiotic relationship between assessment and self-regulation. As I reflect on my own experience as a building principal, I recall that the teachers who had clarity about learning, well-planned lessons, and effective assessment practices never had issues with student behavior at the end of the school year.

There is not a teacher working today who would not want his or her students to be fully invested in their own learning. Getting there is another story entirely. I often hear educators say that we teach students responsibility when we give them homework or long-term projects and deadlines. I would argue that we are giving students opportunities to practice being responsible when we provide those tasks. Students need to be taught how to be responsible before, after, and during practice. This requires a mind shift about a teacher’s role in these all-important skills.

Student investment should be the same way. If we believe that it is valuable for students, both today and in the future, to be the owners of their learning and to learn about self-regulation, then it is our responsibility to teach it and to provide opportunities to practice. I have found in research and practice four characteristics of classrooms where assessment and self-regulation work well together to create student investment: a vision for learning, meaningful and valuable work, asset-based focus, and action and impact.

This will lead to our next work which are learning progressions. Roll on 2019.

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